Forgive the title, it was borne out of students wanting a set formula to answering exam questions on ethics. I think most students feel safer with questions that have a clear-cut answer, rather than to give opinions and to back it up.
For ethics questions, there is generally no one right answer. Outside of gaining experience through dealing with real life ethical situations, most models or methods for answering ethics questions encourages students (and accountants) to consider practical application of theory to given scenarios rather than abstracts.
The points below are a general guide to answering ethics questions:
- Highlight points. Understand what the question requires; are you required to :propose ethical actions to a dilemma/explain an ethical position as given in the question?
- State the position(s) the question raises to your understanding. This shows the examiner your understanding of the question
- Relate scenario to business/reputation/society/stakeholders/individual. highlight or explain (as required) the impact of the dilemma proposed in the scenario on the different concerned parties as requested by the question.
- Propose possible lines of action, giving reasons – because business ethics is not a stand-alone action.
- Highlight the consequences of the alternatives mentioned in (4).
Questions on ethics requires knowledge of theory as well as the application of said theory. I find that a bit of common sense and realistic thinking goes a long way. Here is a link to a model for answering ethical decision making developed by the American Accountants Association
Please share with us if you have found any other models for ethical decision making.
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